Between a brew and a hard place

The SABMIller/AB-InBev deal seems to go through. This is great but will obviously trigger a few consequences and produce both relative winners and losers. The packaging industry doesn’t necessary have to be one of the latter but it will definitely make things a bit more challenging.


Now this consolidation of the industry is in combination with a micro/craft brewery trend that grows seemingly all over the world creates a market place with two extremes.

The polarisation of the field will give the packaging industry a headache. On the one side we have a few really large customers with an impressive leverage and with logistical and geographical demands never seen before. On the other side we have the really small but rapidly rising producers with limited reach that each demands very few but special bottles/cans/kegs at the time.

These opposing customer demands will have to be addressed and solutions must and will be found. The craft breweries are growing and they have aggregated formed into a significant and fast growing market for kegs and bottles and an even faster growing number of cans. It would be a mistake to not support them with suitable packaging solutions that meets their needs. Even if all the action seems to be in the other end of the field right now…

Beer on the loose…

Whole Foods Market in London is a great place to visit to pick up some quality organic food and beverages. It is also a place for spotting new trendy products and also innovative packaging solutions.

This is an however an example of the opposite. Beer sold “loose”… A variety of the Bring Your Own concept but in this case, bring your own keg. This is not a trend but more an interesting fact and a way for a micro brewery to get a bit of attention.

It might give the consumer a nice brew, but the one who washes up the keg is you.

Crafty canners

According to The Beer Institute 52% of all beer was in 2010 sold in cans in the US but only
3% of the craft beer segment came in cans. Craft brewers or microbrewers prefer bottles and kegs, or has preferred. According to an article in Packaging Digest we can now distinguish a shift towards the use of beverage cans.

More craft brewers than ever are now filling beer in beverage cans for several reasons. The distribution of canned beers opens up new channels like convenience stores and arenas. Also financial and logistical aspects are weighed in.

Still the consumers of craft beers are traditionalists and have gotten used to the idea of drinking from bottles. Using bottles is often an obvious choice for the small brewer with a challenging cash-flow looking for a used filling line. The use of co-packers opens up for alternative packaging solutions. Is this a trend or will the scepticism from consumers hold the can back.

A can is a can is…a can?

The beverage can industry is developing the can concept further by making it more light weight, developing stunning print technologies, introducing the widget to get the right foam, making it withstand a retort process, improving lining and the pull ring is now better than ever. But is still not resealable… Until now when Miller Coors is set to launch its Coors Light in a metal bottle. It is not the first product found in a can bottle but it is a significant launch when it hits US store shelves 1 September. The aluminium bottle is produced as a beverage can, cupped, bodied and finally beat into a bottle neck on the end. And here it is, the 16oz (47cl) Silver Bullet Aluminium Pint.

Beer in a new gear

China is not only the second largest economy on the planet it is alsothe largest beer market, and growing. A few years ago China surpassed the US as the main beer guzzler and that will be hard to change given that the Chinese only consume an average 31 litres per capita. That is far from the 79 litres the average American consumes yearly. China is a growing market while Russia used to be a growing market for beer. The Russian beer market is struggling with the effects of the recession and is then hit with a new tax increase, a sobering rise of 200% on all beer from this year on.  This will not help developing the market in the short term. Estimates of a 10% decrease of this year’s sales have been recorded.

It’s my drink!

Beer Savers, or a lid for your bottle is a new concept recently launched by Beer Interactive. It is simply a silicon closure, slightly stretchable to fit a bottle opening. Not everybody has an articulated need for resealing their 33cl beer bottle. But this cap not only identifies your bottle in the bar/night club scene it also makes it more difficult for bad guys to tamper your beverage.

It is of course also a cool thing to use for promoting your bottled beer brands. Cheers.

Beer in China

It was a few years back in time when China took over the position as the largest beer country from the US. In 2003 more beer was officially consumed in China than in the US, the former beer giant. Beer consumption in the US is stagnant while in China it is booming, like so much else in the new land of hope and glory. From a packaging perspective however the Chinese situation is a gigantic opportunity, for everyone, as 95% of the volume is in refillable glass bottles.

Now the country consequently, within a couple of years, is going to become also the largest market for packaging machinery.  This through an outstandingly rapid growth and it obviously makes sense given the size and potential of the market.

Everything is growing but the big question is what will be the beer container preferred in a few years time? The market is developing fast and does not necessarily have to go through all the phases we have seen in the developed world. The market can go straight to whatever it pleases, PET bottles or cans or one-way glass bottles. That is the big question and probably it will be a bit of everything in the end but it is all determined now. It is now that the market is buying packaging machines and filling lines. What they invest in now will set the future pack-mix.